Download the eBook The following is based on our eBook, Planning Your Next Website, which you can download in its entirety for free. As a website support company, we see the good, the bad, the ugly (and the really ugly). We hope to help organizations make the right hiring choices when it comes to having their next website built.
Outsourcing Web Development to the Right Person/Team is Critical
Whether you are a small business that needs to build its primary online presence, an agency executive managing a new website design/build for your client, or an employee managing a new website project on behalf of your company – you are about to embark on a complex journey.
The result of this project will be either accolades and business growth or a giant pain in the ass with a multitude of unexpected consequences.
How to Find a Web Developer
Finding one is not the hard part, finding the right one is tough! Writing a blog article about how to find a web developer is like writing about how to find a car in the parking lot.
Believe me, as a website support agency we see all kinds of stuff, and even after a couple of decades of doing this for a living, I still feel bad when a new client approaches me because of frustration with the investment they made.
This is why I stress so much that buyers of website development services should first research the best way to hire a good web programmer before they even think about the scope of work, which is definitely the next part.
Is it That Hard to Find a Good Web Developer?
Wow! That all sounds scary and dramatic… and that’s because it is. Sure, technology has progressed, become simplified, become cheaper, faster, and simply plain ol’ easier to use.
However, I urge you to never lose sight of the fact that websites are still very complex applications that require multiple servers, technologies, networks, software, languages, frameworks, and a whole bunch more to make them work. There is a lot that can go wrong!
So, my goal here is not to scare you but to start you out on a path of success (reading our eBook is a good place to start). At FatLab, LLC we are a web support company, and I can tell you that we see a lot of bad websites… I take that back… we see a lot of really bad sites.
The following includes some things I wish clients knew before hiring a web developer, web design studio, or agency. I feel like if people knew some of what we have in this ebook before they spent precious time and money, they would be in a better place today.
What to Know Before Hiring a Web Developer
A Big Budget Will NOT Shield You from Crap
At FatLab we are privileged to be working for organizations that aren’t poor, cheap, or budget-strapped. Sure, they all have budgets, but my point is that the majority of the sites we see were not cheap; and bad development is not necessarily a reflection of what an organization paid for its website.
I have personally seen websites that cost over $100K that are horribly built, and I have seen websites that cost a few thousand that are models of computer science genius.
A healthy budget is not going to guarantee you a good product, and a low budget doesn’t necessarily mean a crappy product if you choose your developer wisely.
Website Development is Unregulated
Web development and design is an unregulated industry. There are no qualifications to call oneself a “developer” or “designer.” There are no tests to take, no certificates to show off, and no universal rate card.
You can get people to do the same task for $5/hour that you can for $250/hour. There is no uniformity. Just because someone charges more does not mean they are better at their job than someone who charges less.
Is a $100K website 5 times more complex than a $20K website? Not always!
I am here to tell you that I have been calling myself a “developer” for over 20 years… Does that seem right to you? I was a developer in year 1 and I am a “developer” in year 21.
I can tell you I know a whole lot more today than I did 20 years ago, but that did not stop me from telling people I knew various programming languages … and they hired me.
Ability to Write Code Not Required
Did you know that you can build a website today without writing one line of code? You can, and I’m not even talking about services like SquareSpace and Wix.
I’m talking about custom websites and web applications built with WordPress and other content management systems. We have seen it time after time, people who call themselves “developers” who literally point and click their way through building websites for their clients.
Now the question is: is this so wrong? It depends on whether your contractor can fulfill the criteria of your project by pointing and clicking their way through plugin and commercial theme installs. If so, then all is good, if not, then you just hired the wrong person to build your website.
Developers, Programmers, Engineers, and other Fancy Titles
Personally, I would not call a point-and-click person a “developer,” I am a “developer” as I know several programming languages and frameworks, and server environments.
I know computer scientists (I’m talking people who hold master’s degrees from institutions like Johns Hopkins, MIT, and other reputable places) who try their best to hold back their mocking laughter when web people use words like “developer” or “programmer.”
God, forbid I call myself “engineer.” For the record, I never do call myself an “engineer,” but I have seen some comical resumes in my time for self-proclaimed “engineers.”
Please note: the lack of a degree does not stop “developers” and “programmers” from calling themselves “computer engineers,” “software engineers” and the like … remember when I said this is an unregulated industry?
Full stack developers, engineers, developers, programmers… it’s typically unqualified title manipulation. With that said I will say that those titles do properly belong to some people, I am just also saying nothing is stopping anyone from using them.
Is a senior developer any better than a junior developer? Nope. I have seen people with 1-year of experience run circles around developers with more than 10 years of experience. It’s kind of like sports, you can play the game but if you don’t have natural talent, you will never make the pros.
Web Developer Portfolios and Testimonials Don’t Tell You Everything
Let’s talk portfolios and recommendations. We all have them, and they typically look and sound good. Of course, I’m not going to give you the names of my unhappy clients or show you the projects that didn’t turn out great.
Also, know that a strong portfolio is not necessarily a sign of a good developer. When you review someone’s portfolio you are not looking under the hood. It’s tough to tell if the site was built well, if the client is happy with the performance, or frustrated with the lack of easy administration.
It’s the old ‘judging a book by its cover’ analogy and something as complex as software should never be judged simply by its design. This brings me to my final point of things to consider when looking for a website developer.
Is a Developer a Designer or is a Designer a Developer?
I will argue that design and development are very different skill sets and the likelihood (chance) that one person is good at both is very low.
Sure, as a developer of websites for over 20 years I will claim to have a sense of good or bad design but that does not mean that I am a “designer.” This is not to say that people can’t do both. I’m just warning you that they will be better at one thing than the other.
Take this into consideration as you decide who you are going to work with for your next project. From large dedicated teams with front-end developers, back-end developers, project managers, UX/UI experts, and junior/senior designers to studios with developers and designers to one-person shops/freelancers who do everything from landing pages to fully functional websites.
There is a reason for all these models, and they all turn out very different projects. This must be considered before you make the investment in your next web project.
Do not assume that designers are developers or developers are designers.